Many of you probably heard about the Colorado Waldo Canyon wildfire by now.  I posted on it a few weeks ago, but what an unusual week it was!  The fire itself never really got as big as some fires I have seen.  I believe it was only around 50,000 acres at its final.  However, due to its proximity to town, I believe I heard it was the worst wildfire in Colorado history.  It destroyed around 340 homes located in 2 main CO Springs neighborhoods, plus some business structures, a number of ranches, and several outbuildings.  The famous Flying W Ranch, well-known for its historical village, native american workers and teachers, “chuck wagon suppers” and clean, family-friendly, cowboy-style entertainment completely burned to the ground.  Miraculously, however, when it was all said and done, every single cow, calf, and horse was accounted for, plus the addition of 2 new calves.  I noticed recently that they are already making a come-back, by considering hosting their famous suppers under the stars under donated tents or something like that, in an attempt to raise the needed cash to start rebuilding.

In any case, at its peak over 32,000 people had to evacuate their homes, many of which had animals of some sort.  The primary livestock facility quickly got crowded, the humane society and small animal shelters totally filled up, and animals were still in need of homes.  God worked, and we were allowed to bless a few families by taking in their animals for about a week, until their pre-evacuation notices were lifted.  So, for a week, in addition to our own donkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits, bees, dogs, and cat, we also became the temporary owners of 2 additional cats (from separate homes), a pile of chickens, and 5 llamas.  We were also able to refer some people to other farms in the network we put together.  One lady even gave us about 14 roosters and baby chicks just so she didn’t have to worry about them anymore.  She knew the roosters would become dinner, but we are now raising the chicks, hoping to get a few egg-layers out of them.  It was a crazy week, to say the least, trying to keep animals separated, happy, fed, and watered, and I couldn’t have done it without my older children helping out!

M giving some of the llamas a treat.

Some of the roosters that were given to us. Don’t worry, the ones sharing the cage were only in there for one evening, as they were harvested the next day.

I forgot to take pictures of the cats and other chicks and chickens, but it all went well with the exception of a group of 3 hens that came out.  There were 3 hens that came with the llamas, and we put them in a pen with a shelter we could lock up.  However, that evening, they refused to go near the shelter, and when S attempted to catch them, they went crazy and wouldn’t let him near them.  He feared they might fly out of the short, temporary fencing if he cornered them, so he let them be, hoping they would fall asleep and he could go back and move them after dark.  Well, with all the other incoming critters, and the busy day, he forgot.  The next morning, all that remained of the 3 hens were 3 piles of feathers.  We still have no clue what took them, though we theorize an overhead predator.  In any case, the owner was very understanding, but we allowed her to choose 3 of our chickens as a replacement, which her children excitedly did.

It was truly amazing, with the entire county under air and health advisories, our area was like a little oasis.  We had clean air, good temperatures, and were a safe haven for all the animals (except the 3 poor hens). One evening, we had a little ash falling like snow flurries, but the air quality never got worse than the a slight smell of a campfire.

There are still many fires burning around Colorado, though the Waldo Canyon fire is totally contained.  Everyone is on look out, and to my knowledge, the arsonist I previously mentioned has not yet been caught.  He almost seems to be laying low for a while.  Like much of the country, though, we desperately need rain.  We have had only one short soaking rain and 2 brief hailstorms, that lasted about 1/2 hour, in the last 3 months.  The fire also ran a lot of wildlife down from the mountain, and folks are having to be extra vigilant.  With the deer and elk, the primary danger is vehicle collisions as they wander into town looking for food.  However, the mountain lion, bobcat, bear, fox, and coyotes all pose dangers of their own.  We even had a hungry bear show up at my neighbor’s house, and it was discovered in their chick pen, eating their baby chicks.  They scared it off, but we are well aware that he could return any time.  With the drought, I fear this could be a difficult winter dealing with predators.  They are already hungry, and now that the fire has pushed so many from their homes, they are competing for the little food that is out there.  I fear by winter, our little farm may become a feeding ground for some of them!

We were thrilled to be able to help others out, and give them peace of mind with their animals.  God has truly blessed us, and it was a wonderful experience to see the willing hearts others had in their offers as well.  Now that things are back to normal (whatever that is), we continue plugging along, working on projects, discussing plans for moving next year, and preparing for the upcoming school year.

In closing, I can’t resist paying tribute to the beloved Flying W…..”Just hold it by the applesauce!”  Everything will be OK!